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“The fight against alcohol is long. It never ends. But he’s shown that when he starts something he achieves it, and to me he seems more mature. I think he’s left behind that bad moment,” said Carolina Martinez, a housewife who lives in the working-class neighborhood where Cabrera grew up and where his relatives still live.

Cabrera now lives largely in the United States, and has stopped playing in the offseason with his Venezuelan team, the Aragua Tigres, or Tigers. His latest contract with Detroit in 2008, for about $152 million, locked him in to an eight-year deal.

Since 2008, his batting performance has soared. He led the American League in home runs in 2008 with 37, then topped the league with 126 RBIs in 2010 and with a .344 batting average in 2011.

“My goal has always been to play hard for my team, improve every day to be able to keep doing what I love: playing baseball,” Cabrera said earlier this year during a visit to Venezuela.

As for his influences, Cabrera said he’s always looked up to Venezuelan major leaguer Dave Concepcion, who played with the Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” when the club won the World Series in 1975 and 1976. “He’s always been an example as a person and as a player,” Cabrera said.

Some Venezuelans say they hope that Cabrera will one day be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The only Venezuelan with that honor so far is former major league shortstop Luis Aparicio.

“I think Miguel is a natural candidate for the Hall of Fame. He’s an exceptional player and very young,” Aparicio said in a telephone interview. “If he stays healthy and away from problems, I’m sure he’s going to achieve it.”